Elisabeth Donaldson is a talented comedian, actress, and photographer living in Nashville. Donaldson came to the attention of Undiscovered Nashville through another talented singer/songwriter and actress, Sarah Zanotti. They starred together in “Rattled,” an independent film featured at the Nashville Film Festival in 2020. Donaldson gave a masterful performance in that film. So, I began following her career at that point. She is a great follow on Instagram, and trust me; her content is comedic gold. While to this point, Undiscovered Nashville has focused on music, why not expand to other creatives living in Nashville. Please keep reading to learn more about Elisabeth and her advice to other creatives chasing what seems to be an impossible dream.
The Love of Acting and Filmmaking
Like many others chasing what so many would call an impossible dream, Elisabeth Donaldson’s love of acting and filmmaking began at a young age. The actress said, “I think I came out of the womb acting. I have been interested in acting and filmmaking for as long as I can remember. I made stop-action movies with my parent’s camcorder as a little kid. At the time, I was obsessed with “Little House on the Prairie,” and I made all these clothes for my Barbies. I turned the kitchen counter into a stage and built this whole set with Lincoln Logs and things from the backyard. I made a stream out of tin foil. It was this entire saga. At nine years old, I was obsessed with filmmaking. Sadly, my sister recorded an after-school special over all my stop-action cartoons. I was devastated, and after that, our camcorder got stolen. Technology evolved, and the new camera made it more difficult to create those films. All of my childhood masterpieces were lost.”
Elisabeth Donaldson was born to entertain people and bring a smile to everyone’s face. Donaldson said, “I don’t even have this as a memory, but apparently I was around one-year-old while on a trip to the hardware store with my dad; I was walking around singing “Jingle Bells” at the top of my lungs. I was always into the theatre, doing school plays and community theatre. In 4th Grade, I wrote and directed a musical for my class called “It’s All a Dream. There was even a doo-wop song. I was always dressing up and wanting to entertain my family. But it wasn’t all acting. I have always been creative and have enjoyed sewing and creating sets.”
Elisabeth Donaldson Discusses the Ups and Downs of an Acting Career
When you are chasing a career in a creative industry, whether it’s music, acting, writing, or painting, it can be gratifying and beat you down. Choosing a creative career will prove difficult if you can’t take rejection. I asked Donaldson about this aspect of her career. The actress said, “When you are an artist for a living, it’s a real journey. There are highs and lows. Only about 1 percent of people make it big, and the rest of us are holding out hoping those movie start days will come.”
You cannot panic when things are not going your way to make acting a career. But, Donaldson said, “As you progress and you are in it for a lifetime, and it becomes how you make your living, it’s your job. There’s a grind to it. Sometimes you are busy, and sometimes you are not. You may have a movie you are so excited about, and when it comes out, it sucks. You have a project you feel good about, but it never comes out.”
Elisabeth Donaldson Doesn’t Have a Plan B
Most creative people I have met don’t have a plan B because this is their passion, and they would not be happy doing anything else. But, the actress said, “My parents have always been supportive, but maybe a couple of times, they suggested I have a plan B. But, I sat them straight and said this is what I will be doing until I die. I told them, you are either with me or not, so they are with me. However, I got to a point about seven years ago where things were hard, and I was at a make-or-break moment. Of course, there are always difficult times, but at this time, I was taking a look at whether I should quit. But, as I looked at my options, I realized I don’t have another career option because this is what I’ve invested in the most. It’s my best shot at life, so I’ve got to give it my all.”
Elisabeth Donaldson has a drive and determination that is inspiring, but it is a choice. Donaldson said, “Everything I do for a living isn’t anything taught, even the photography and social media. Sure, you can go to art school, but it doesn’t teach you anything you can’t learn independently. Nobody teaches social media because it moves too fast. But, If I did have a plan B, I could fail. So this is my only option. There isn’t any other option for me to succeed at what I am trying to create.”
For Donaldson, Nashville is Home
While most TV and film industry is based in Los Angeles, Nashville is quietly becoming home to actors. Donaldson explained why she made Nashville home. Elisabeth said, “I lived in LA for nine years, but I came to Nashville to do non-profit work. Initially, I planned to stay in Nashville for two years and return to Los Angeles. But, I decided to stay longer. Then, I went to LA to visit, and it had changed. It no longer felt like home, but Nashville did.”
The actress continued, “When you run into someone in LA, it had become a recitation of a resume. Nothing bores me more than talking about acting tactics with other actors. The thirst reeks! However, Nashville is a fertile ground to be creative. It seems to be a more comprehensive environment, and with social media and the internet, you can build a career from anywhere. But, each individual has to decide what is best for them.”
Elisabeth Donaldson Creates the Conditions that Allows Creativity
I have always wondered if creativity is natural or can it be learned. Did Elisabeth’s theatre background foster her creativity? Donaldson said, “You become creative by allowing yourself to be creative and not judging yourself, and building an environment around yourself where creativity can occur is essential. So, I am pretty ruthless about building such an environment. I spend ten hours a week devoted to self-improvement outside of anything else. I think many people neglect that. They don’t put time into the administrative side of their careers or put work into building a mindset that nourishes their creativity.”
Societal Pressures can Cause a Loss of Focus
As I sat and talked with Elisabeth Donaldson, I paused to reflect on my life decisions and my mistakes in my career. Living for others’ expectations of you can kill your dreams if you allow it. The actress said, “Many people surround themselves with people who suck the life and creativity out of them. They allow people in their life who doubt their dreams and wrap them in unhealthy activities. Society puts a lot of pressure on you to meet societal expectations that are supposed to make you happy, but you may find that you end up hating your life. So, I am chasing my creativity and my highest potential. I am not chasing the expectations put on me by society.”
The people you surround yourself with can help or hurt your career. So, sometimes you have to make hard choices. Donaldson said, “I simply do not have friends who fail to support my dreams. All my friends understand what it takes to make a dream happen. They surround me with support, which helps me be creative.
Chasing a Creative Career is Not Easy
While people like Elisabeth Donaldson make it look easy, she works incredibly hard behind the scenes. Elisabeth said, “I think people who think creativity comes from some magic spark have it backward. Anyone can be creative if they create an environment to chase their creativity. Then, of course, you will be criticized and misunderstood, but you can’t relent. You have spectators who say you are so funny, but it would likely make them uncomfortable if they were to live my life. But then they sit back and say, it’s amazing! How do you do it? But, I’m like, this is all I do. This is my dream and what matters to me the most in my life. So, I am 24/7 trying to nourish my creativity and make it happen.
Every day in Nashville, I see talented people. However, talent is not enough to make it. If you don’t approach a creative career as a business, you will likely fail. Donaldson agreed and said, “In my opinion, talent is only ten percent of it. If you want to make it in a creative career, even on a lower scale, you are trying to do what only one percent achieve. Do you think you will make it if you are going out drinking every weekend or watching Netflix all the time? The people who make it are working at it.”
Fun Facts with Elisabeth Donaldson
Even though Elisabeth Donaldson is intentional about using her time, Elisabeth is not all business. It seems swimming helped her develop discipline during her childhood. The actress said, “I guess one fun fact is I have a webbed toe on my left foot. Also, I was a competitive swimmer from 9 years old until I was sixteen. I also played water polo. Pre-pandemic, I swam a three-mile race. The fastest time I ever swam in the mile was nineteen minutes.” The discipline required to be successful in swimming has translated into her acting career. Donaldson said, “Without discipline, I would be wild and on the loose. It’s a weekly thing to have to reel myself back in. There are two sides to my personality, one side is funny, and the other is artsy.”
What celebrity would you like to have dinner with? Would it be Jean-Claude Van Damme? Donaldson said, “I had dinner with Jean-Claude Van Damme. His assistant came to our acting school to collect headshots for a project. So, my friend and I ended up going to dinner with Jean-Claude. He invited us to hang out after dinner, but I said no. So, I guess that shows I am not a clout chaser.”
Upcoming Projects for Elisabeth Donaldson
Donaldson previewed some of her upcoming projects for us. The actress said “The Visitor” should come out later this year. We just wrapped up post-production. I also have a short film that I wrote called “Ghosted,” which is about to go into production. It’s about a girl who kidnaps a guy who ghosted her and the chaos that ensues. I am picking up all my goals from before the pandemic pivot.”
I am grateful for the opportunity to interview Elisabeth Donaldson. Before, I was impressed by her talent, hilarious social media content, and her performances in two of the films I have seen. However, after the interview, I was more impressed by her drive and discipline.
I look forward to watching her upcoming projects. Hopefully, you will also get to see “Rattled” soon too. But, first, you can watch Donaldson in “Mags and Julie Go on a Road Trip.” It is available on Prime Video, Tubi, and Vudu. I wholeheartedly recommend the movie. In the meantime, I hope you will give Elisabeth Donaldson a follow on social media. Also, through this article, I hope you learned as much from Donaldson as I did. The future is bright for the actress, and she will always have the support of Undiscovered Nashville.